Texas special session should extend virtual learning 
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Gov. Greg Abbott has called lawmakers back into special session to address a handful of priorities. This includes a critical one missing from the last call — advancing a student-centered education.

The purpose of education is to empower students to discover, develop, and apply their unique abilities. Yet, the basic framework of our public education system has not changed for more than a century. We still require students to learn the same material, at the same rate, and in the same manner as every other student.

Instead, we should seek to transform education to give students the skills to continually fulfill their unique potential throughout their lives.

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The goal is to find the best way to allow that to happen for each child.

For many kids, that will be in a classroom setting. But others might respond better to hands-on learning experiences outside of the classroom or supplementing their learning after hours. Our focus should not be to try to fit every student into a single model. It should be to provide options that help families find the best way to help their kids succeed.

While it is impossible to redesign a hundred-year-old system in one swipe, there is some low hanging fruit available for policymakers to pick.

For starters, Gov. Abbott should call on the legislature to pass a version of House Bill 1468, which expanded virtual options for students, from this past Regular Session. This bill had bipartisan support late in session but got stuck in late-session politics. It should be revived to put modern-day, virtual options into the hands of families and teachers.

Online content, including virtual access to teachers and experts remotely, gives students access to student-centered innovations in teaching and learning. Internships and in-person learning communities outside of traditional classrooms are only a couple of examples of how online and virtual content can enable students to spend more time on topics of interest and fuel an individualized experience for every child.

 

We further call on the governor and legislators to ensure virtual options are at the discretion of students and families, not forced on them by school systems.

Another way to advance student-centered education is to attach funding to each child and to make those dollars portable to the school or educational courses of their parents choosing. In this way each student’s journey is uniquely designed for them and not used to fund one approach for every child.

While doing this for the full amount of a student’s education might not be possible today, billions of federal discretionary dollars are available to Texas. Some of those dollars should go directly to families to support their children’s unique educational needs, particularly now.

Virtual learning and attaching learning dollars to students are just two options for a more student-centered educational experience. However, families cannot benefit from these policies unless our policymakers act.

Without legislative intervention, education will continue to be a formulaic ritual where performing well on test scores is the primary objective for students and educators.

Our elected leaders have a great opportunity to start the transformation to a student-centered education in Texas now.

They shouldn’t miss it.

Andrew Clark is a Dallas resident and executive director of yes. every kid.